Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Worst Thing

The worst thing that has ever happened to Christianity was its legalization in 313 and then the subsequent adoption as the 'official' religion of the ancient Roman state - empire.  From this time on, Christianity became integrated into the power structure of the times.  Germanic and Slavic tribal 'kingdoms' saw the uses of Christianity as chief ally to the achievement and maintenance of power.  Evangelical reformers in the West in the 16th century saw the same, as did Catholic powers. Orthodox Christians in non-Christian lands saw it as a communal defence mechanism.  Christian ethics and morals were supported in the more liberal democracies as a route to common ethics and morals even where Christianity in recent times was implicit rather than explicit.

What we know of the historical Jesus - and what those of us who are Christians, believe about the Christ,  show a man or an incarnate aspect of the Trinity who was not integrated into the power structures of his day  and did not seek that.

On the other hand, neither is there any historically disciplined evidence, or supporting exegesis  that he supported an overthrow of secular power structures - at least not in a direct fashion.

What was taught in word and deed, was to think outside the box, to put it in modern terms.  The proposal - and that is what Christianity is at one level - a proposal - was to change an individual's personal approach to others.  This is a truly revolutionary idea.  Standard issue revolutions merely put in place another regime which over time devolve into the same old thing.  Only a personal alteration of how one views the world about you holistically and organically is truly revolutionary.


  1. On the contrary though, could we not say it was one of the best possible 'movements' at the time? It could be seen as a unifying factor for the Germanic tribes [now granted I don't have much knowledge of the Antiquity pre-collapse] after migration periods. Tying in to the power structure .. it becomes a stronger tool for organization & community, but also so easily exploited..

    Gibbons has suggested that Christianity's mentality led to the downfall of Roman Empire; I wonder if he is talking about the initial fall in the 4th C or the latter one, with the Protestant reformation & various political disruptions - would this be the whole trajectory of his [simplified] argument?

    Voltaire was always suspicious of those Catholic Priests throughout the middle ages - although attempting to spread a message of Positive personal approaches ... it did not turn out exactly like this (Heretics were everywhere!).

    1. Well, like most historic changes it had both good and bad features. In terms of the spread of Christianity it was definitely good. In terms of remaining true to a religion that preached humility and an internal changing of life, not so good. This leads one to argue whether a widespread 'surface' Christianity and the hope that the essence of the faith would one day infiltrate whole societies is better or worse than remaining a small, embattled faith of followers who have thoroughly internalized its primary ideals.

      Gibbon was talking about the 5th century fall of the empire in the West - he perversely took the same attitude as the still remaining pagans of the day - that the old gods had made the empire strong and their abandonment by the empire caused its downfall. Gibbon was a curious character - writing in the rational 18th century, the age of 'enlightenment', he had been attracted to the Catholic church for a time, but settled on a standard 18th century rational deism that disliked organized religion.